Above: Michelle Obama photographed by Annie Leibovitz for American Vogue
When you see a beautiful image in a magazine or book, what is your first instinct? Do you immerse yourself in the image? Savour it? Imagine what it might feel like to be in that space? Do you zero in on aspects of its composition – its silhouette, colour, textures, use of line – critique it? Or do you immediately think to yourself: “ I like it. I want it. How/where can I get it?”
My personal opinion is that society, for many years, has been more concerned with the latter of these instincts. The focus is on acquisition. Possession.
When I encounter this behaviour, I often think of Coco Chanel’s famous quote, “elegance is refusal”.
I believe that her famous quote rings true. We do not need to possess all that is beautiful in the world to be beautiful ourselves. In fact, many things look best in another context. Consider women’s fashions: there isn’t a woman alive who does not look better in one silhouette versus another, or who, when wearing a particular colour, looks ravishing, while that same colour can make another look dour. Let us appreciate beauty where it rests. Take a breath and simply enjoy it rather than plotting how to steal it.
Let’s be in the now. Savour the moment. Be grateful that we are there to witness the beauty at hand. It is for us and for all who view it to enjoy. We are basking in its glory when we stop to take it in.
One of the beautiful things about the internet is that we can enjoy so many gorgeous images. In some cases, we may see more beauty in one hour than our ancestors may have seen over several years in their lives. We now are fortunate to be able to view beautiful photographs of our cosmos that would not have been available a century ago. We cannot possess these celestial bodies, but we can marvel at their beauty and take pleasure in that.
So often, when at a party, at the office, or on the sidewalk, when we see someone wearing something that we like, the question all too often is, “where did you get that?” rather than, “that sweater looks lovely on you, it really brings out the blue in your eyes”. Rather than thinking of how to take (planning on copying, possessing), why not give (a compliment about the person, not just the object). A compliment is so much more meaningful than an observation. Saying to someone, “your hair is up today”, or “you cut your hair”, leaves the recipient unclear about the intention behind this remark upon a statement of fact. When one says “your hair looks great”, it makes the recipient feel good and gives them the clarity to thank the compliment-giver for their kindness.
As Bill Cunningham says, “he who seeks beauty shall find it”. Go out there today and see what beauty surrounds us. And be kind! When you see beauty in the form of a person, let them know – it will brighten both of your days.
My questions to you:
- Where do you tend to notice beauty most often in your life?
- What forms of beauty resonate with you most deeply?
- Has anyone ever complimented you on your style, your taste, or some other aspect pertaining to beauty? If so, what was said and how did it make you feel?